Gadling Gear Review: DeLorme inReach Satellite Communicator

The DeLorme inReach Satellite CommuincatorThanks to cheap mobile phones and the proliferation of the Internet, it is now easier than ever to stay in touch while traveling, even while visiting foreign countries. But there are still certain places on the planet where cellphone coverage is nonexistent and technology of any kind is at a premium. In those destinations, satellite communication remains the best option, although it can be cost prohibitive for many. Enter the inReach satellite communicator from DeLorme, a piece of equipment that can help travelers stay in constant contact from virtually anywhere on the planet and do so without breaking the bank.

Somewhat resembling a two-way radio that needs to go on a diet, the inReach is built to be durable enough to survive nearly any environment. The device is dust and waterproof, designed to float when dropped in water, and while it weighs just 8 ounces, it is also impact resistant. DeLorme built this gadget to operate under extreme conditions, and as such, it functions in temperatures ranging from -4° up to 158° Fahrenheit. In short, the inReach is built like a tank and can withstand nearly as much punishment.

DeLorme designed the inReach to be easy to use and provide functionality that will keep travelers safe no matter where they go. The device uses GPS technology to track its location at all times and has the ability to share that location with friends and family back home via the web or SMS message. It is also configured to be able to send a variety of predefined messages as a text to let others know that the user is okay or that they are in need of assistance. The inReach also features a dedicated SOS button that can call for emergency evacuation should the need arise, providing a measure of security no matter where our travels take us.As a stand-alone device, the inReach satellite communicator is a useful safety net that provides a measure of security for those traveling to remote corners of the planet. But when paired with a smartphone or tablet device via Bluetooth wireless connectivity, it becomes a communications tool that is far more versatile and useful than it is on its own. DeLorme’s Earthmate app is available in both the iOS app store and the Google Play store, and by adding it to your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Android powered gadget, the full capabilities of the inReach are unlocked.

The Earthmate app allows the user to move beyond simply sending pre-set messages from their satellite communicator. Instead they can use their smartphone or tablet’s keyboard to type anything they want and then send it to contacts in their address book as a text message. The app can also post updates to Facebook and Twitter, while simultaneously sharing GPS locational data. You can even send messages directly to other inReach users provided you have the unique address assigned to their specific device.

The app also includes the ability to download detailed maps for most parts of the world. Those maps, when combined with the inReach’s built in GPS capabilities, turns your iPhone or Android device into a navigational tool. When paired with one another, the maps show the users The DeLorme inReach satellite communicator and Earthmate applocation at any given time, making it easy to navigate through the high Himalaya or the streets of Rome with equal aplomb, without using expensive data plans while abroad.

The DeLorme inReach costs $249 and the Earthmate app is free. The company does require a monthly subscription fee to access the satellite services, providing options that range from as little as $9.95 up to $64.95 depending on the amount of text messages you want included in the package. Considering most of us already own a smartphone these days, that makes this an affordable and powerful communications tool for frequent travelers who simply want the ability to stay in touch from virtually anywhere on the planet. The device uses the Iridium satellite network to communicate, which gives it coverage at both the North and South Pole and just about everywhere else in between.

Powered by two AA batteries, I was concerned that the inReach would need to replace its power cells frequently, something that can be a real drag while traveling abroad. But DeLorme says that battery life is good for about 125 hours and I have a hard time taking umbrage with those numbers. While testing the gadget, I never managed to completely drain the batteries, although I did appreciate the ability to quickly and easily replace the AA cells, which also have the advantage of being readily available in just about any country in the world.

While putting the inReach through its paces, I found that it performed exactly as advertised. I was able to send text messages to contacts in my address book and they arrived within a couple of minutes. I could also send locational data, which came through as clickable links, taking friends to a webpage that displayed my current location. I can only assume that the emergency SOS feature works just as well, although for obvious reasons I didn’t test that particular aspect of the device.

Whether you’re backpacking through the Andes, sailing the South Pacific or simply wandering around Europe for a few weeks, the inReach can be a powerful communications tool to let friends and family back home know that all is well on your most recent adventure. It can also be a potential lifesaver in times of need, giving users the ability to call for help when necessary. Add in GPS navigational options and you have an incredibly useful travel companion that you won’t want to leave home without.

The DeLorme inReach also makes a perfect holiday gift for the adventure traveler in your life. If you worry about a friend or family member every time they head off on another trip, then perhaps this device is just the piece of mind you’ll need the next time they announce their plans to drop off the grid for a few weeks. Its ability to stay in contact and call for help when needed will have you sleeping much better at night.

[Image: www.delorme.com]

DeLorme and SPOT join forces for GPS receiver with satellite messaging

GPS and mapping firm DeLorme has teamed up with SPOT to develop the PN-60w handheld GPS. The PN-60w is the first combination GPS unit / SPOT Satellite communicator on the market. We reviewed SPOT back in 2008, and if you missed that review, SPOT is a GPS enabled satellite communicator designed to transmit your position and relay messages.

The SPOT system has evolved since then, with the most notable difference being a smaller device. With the new DeLorme PN-60w, the SPOT system gains Type & Send text messaging, allowing you to send messages when you are well outside the reach of cellular networks.

The system is subscription based, and in addition to text messages, users can even type and send messages to individual email addresses, buddy lists, and social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Fire Eagle, SpotAdventures.com, or Geocaching.com.
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In case of emergency, SOS messages can be sent with the user’s GPS coordinates embedded. In addition, family and friends can track a user’s progress via Google’s free online maps.

The GPS unit itself is equally impressive – offering topographic and street level maps of the U.S. and Canada. Additional maps and charts can be added using the included desktop software.

The rugged PN-60w is a 2-piece system, and the handheld communicates wirelessly with the SPOT transmitter, which means you can place it somewhere that will ensure a clear view of the sky.

The new system will be introduced at the Teva Mountain Games this week, and will be available for purchase in July.

New device will let you text, twitter from remote places

The Consumer Electronics Show has been going on in Las Vegas the past few days, with a host of new gadgets and gizmos being announced, including everything from new digital camera, ebook readers, and even 3D LCD TV’s. One product that was announced, and may be of interest to travelers heading to remote places on the planet, is the Earthmate PN-60w, a hand held GPS device from DeLorme and SPOT, that will allow adventurers to more effectively communicate from locations that are not covered by cell service.

The new device pairs one of DeLorme’s GPS units with SPOT’s next generation Satellite Communicator, to send custom message from the backcountry. The Earthmate wil have all the regular features you’d expect from a GPS, including base maps, in this case covering the entire world, navigation, electronic compass, and so on. But it will also wirelessly pair with the Communicator, allowing the user to type text messages and send them to friends and family back home via satellite.

For its part, the Satellite Communicator allows for adventure travelers to call for help, should the need arise, from nearly anywhere on the planet. It also lets the user to share tracking information and custom messages that can easily be interfaced with Twiter, Facebook, Geocaching.com, and SPOT’s own SPOTadventures.com.

The Earthmate PN-60w will be available later this spring, but pricing, for the device and the communications service, have not yet been announced. If DeLorme and SPOT stay true to form however, you can expect global communications to become available and affordable for the average consumer.